The Reality of Running a Pole Studio

Tiff Finney photoshoot by photographer Millie Robson

The harsh reality of running a pole dance and fitness studio.

Ever heard the one about the duck gliding on water? So effortless and serene. But underneath, the little legs are going like the clappers. Well, like every business out there that is worth your time of day, this is Pole Physique. This is many pole studios out there. We want you to see us as that beautiful swan. The whole point of going like the clappers is so that you receive the best quality of classes, training, safety and experience. But, if you want the gossip of what it is REALLY like….

Lots of things, nay endless, go into that little one hour class. It is worth every single second when we see you leave the room sweating, smiling, frustrated because you want that trick so badly, laughing, amazed at what you have done, chatting to your new mates animatedly and many other emotions. In order to get to that one class, we have to meticulously have a million things in order.

Money

As much as this is a passion for pole studio owners, it is a business that cannot run without money. Many assume that money paid for a class goes straight into an instructors pocket. It doesn’t. Really doesn’t. The vast percentage goes into weekly bills (around four or more types of insurance, high business  rent, management services, tax, booking systems, websites, heat, lighting, decor, equipment, advertising, instructors, card processing, accountancy, water, sewage, rates, advertising, accountancy, banks, service charges and many many many more). Then there are unforeseen payments usually monthly that can be from hundreds to thousands of dollar that all have to be accounted and paid for.

Admin

Again, many think that all you need to do is post a status and answer a few emails. No more than 15 mins work. No. Most potential customers may need days, weeks or months of long online or telephone conversations, and understandably so too. Taking your first ever pole class is a HUUUGE deal to most people due to the negative perceptions and loss of self esteem. It’s not cut and dry like joining a gym. I spend a couple of hours a day on average chatting to people about this and many still never join which is a huge shame. As well as this, there is general admin, researching useful articles, carefully thinking/writing posts, bookkeeping, writing blogs, updating the website, getting to grips with business tools, branding, endless hours of researching that goes nowhere, future plans and ideas with full research that may or may not come to fruition, hours a month on contacting students with reminders of new memberships coming up and a lot of general worrying about the things you should be doing but don’t have time to do. At Christmas for example, for the break that we were closed, I worked an average 0f 17hrs per day. I can understand how people are confused as to how I can spend that long a day on a company that is only open for an average of 3 hours a day!

Reaching

Researching and testing new content for the studio is endless. It takes time every day thinking, brainstorming and researching current and potential content for classes, merchandise, business plans, branding and the future of our company. If you’re not reaching then you might as well just quit. You are not doing yourself, your instructors, your company or your students any justice. I can’t remember the last time I watched a tv programme without my iphone or macbook clicking and whirring away.  Most things never even come to fruition but that’s beside the point. Without reaching for new ideas, you’ll never achieve. People often joke at the fact that I don’t go to sleep til 6am and assume I am just chilling. Really, it’s because I’m reaching! It is 5am as I am typing this. Heres a funny example. In January 2011, I first got together with Sharon to discuss a website. It’s now January 2015 and we are a few weeks away from being completed. And even then, with all the new ideas, it will always be updated. The new classes that came into effect this week seem, on the outside, like they have been introduced on a whim. Actually, they have been over a year (some longer) of countless hours, days, weeks and months in the making.

Training

I stay behind after classes every night for around 2 hours. If I want to be the best instructor and pole community advocate, I have to. And I want to. We can’t give you the tuition you deserve without it. The pole community and the tricks evolve every month. I am damned if I am not going to be part of it. Granted, there are some things that just don’t float my boat and I won’t make a point of teaching these but you can bet I have researched and tested it first. Also, there are many times where I’ll spend time thinking up new combos, routines and ideas for a class or particular student and testing them out on top of the set content already in place. Being as equipped as possible with knowledge is essential. Then I also train in the day, stretching and working on performances to promote our company and what we represent.

Classes

Every single detail in your class from Prep Stretch to routines have been meticulously researched, formulated, recorded and researched. And on top of that, they are constantly developed. Many are veto’d after research and a select few make the grade. Each stretch has a reason, each Flair has a purpose. Every single one of the hundreds and hundreds of tricks and transitions is recorded on what it is, how to teach it, breakdown points, health and safety marks, correction points, added techniques, alternative options (with separate breakdowns etc) and so on. Everything is in writing and meticulously planned. Then on top of that there are many different class types. All with their own details. Every student is an individual and every individual must be catered for. I also worry. A lot. I think, “did I do enough with this student, too little, are they enjoying it, did i push it too far, is it just me that enjoys that combo, am i missing the mark”? I don’t think I have ever taught a class where I haven’t thought at least one of these. And I will feel bad the day I don’t feel like this because that’s what passion for teaching is for me.

Environment

It is essential to provide the environment that your company stands for. From your decor, your poles, flooring, attitude, lighting and much more. Cleaning, replenishing toiletries, ensuring messages and displays are updated and framed, going in 3 hours early to switch heating on in the winter and making sure you turn up looking remotely fresh and ready to kick some ass. If you don’t want to be in your studio then why would your students?

Passion

You have to have passion for what you do or there is no point. But when you have a passion for pole and own a pole company, it takes over man!! Even when I’m not teaching and have a replacement instructor, I spend the whole time thinking about what is going on there. If I have sorted everything. I only take a day off if I need to for a work/personal commitment or if my admin has overloaded. You know once, I took a day off because I needed to finish some admin with a deadline. After, I nipped to a shopping mall. I think I was buying a present for one of our instructor’s Birthday that was the next day that I wouldn’t have any other chance to buy. Anyway, the next week, a student confronted me saying, “why were you not teaching last week? I know you weren’t ill because I saw you outside TopShop”. Hahahaha. One of my fave quotes ever. She thought I was skiving haha. Even if I was skiving, there is no such thing. Most pole studio owners are personally invested into what they do. Its not a black and white business. It’s a lifestyle. It’s about doing everything you can to bring people into the pole community because it’s the best place in the world to be.

That’s why i dedicate ALL of my time 24/7 to my pole studio and the people that walk through our doors. I do it because I believe in it. When you believe in something, you will do everything you can, like the clappers of ducks feet,  to ensure that one class is a serene swan gliding along the water.

Tiff xx

 

 

 

 

7 Comments

  • Tricia says:

    You just said it all. Well written and very on point. Thank you for writing what I always wanted to explain to people.

  • Pedro Melo says:

    Seriously, amazing post. I’m an IT consultant which has shown a viable talent on doing business, married to Anna Bia, a well-known pole dancer here I’m Brazil. Shit got serious, we had to open our own studio and it’s amazing how pole has taken an extremely big part of our lives. Me myself not being an pole athlete (for pure dumb laziness) had to learn a whole lot about pole moves, pole personalities, the business of selling and marketing pole, and that is just very immersive, very serious, very intense.

    My wife is crazy about pole, she lives her business and passion scarifyingly 24/7 and I really understand why. Thanks for sharing this posts! Awesome! Loved it!

    • Tiff says:

      Great to hear this. And it is great that you support your wife so much with a business and a passion that is just life consuming. I notice often that supportive husbands are as much a part of running a studio as we are. I’m sure Anna couldn’t do it without you and your support. Thanks for the lovely post!

  • TIFF!!!!!

    I tip my hat to you for writing such truth about the responsibilities of owning and running a pole studio! Not just any old pole studio but a studio that represents the best of pole. Your words are inspiring!!!! Keep doing what you do :)

    –Raphy–

  • Melissa says:

    Thank you for writing this! Makes me feel more normal and much less alone!

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